Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Get your 20% off Urban Time discount coupon!

Urban Time 20% off Discount CouponUrban Time, distributors of Lulu Castagnette, Cherie Paris and MC Marie Claire watches is sharing 20% off discount vouchers for the loyal readers of Animetric's World! Simply click on the coupon to get the full-sized image, print out, and present to Urban Store at the 3rd floor of SM City Annex to avail of this special treat.

This voucher is applicable until August 31, 2009 for ALL watches available at Urban Time.

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Monday, June 29, 2009

A delectable dinner at Lolo Dad's Brasserie!

Lolo Dad's is a restaurant name that inspires fear in the heart of a frugal foodie.

My hubby and I are among those who are intimidated, as Lolo Dad's is an establishment that often tops the list of society's creme de la creme as the fine dining place to be. To our surprise, it wasn't really as financially debilitating as we've made it out to be. A four-course set menu complete from appetizer to dessert was pegged at P980, something which we found to be quite reasonable given the type of food they were going to serve.

Pop Over Bread at Lolo Dad's BrasserieFor starters we had the Pop-Over Bread with Herb Butter (P130 for 3 pieces, pictured above right). Take note that there is no complimentary bread basket. The Pop-Over Bread had a crisp outer shell and soft egg muffin-like interior. It was served freshly baked too, so the aroma was wafting through the air and tempting us to reach out as soon as it was laid down our table. My hubby isn't really fond of breads but was the first to comment on how good it was.

We decided to go for the Set Menu to get the most bang for our buck.

Dinner Set Menu (P980+ per person, exclusive of 10% service charge, changes weekly)

Salmon Gravlax and Smoked Prawn with Mesclun and 1000 Island Coulis appetizer at Lolo Dad's BrasserieAppetizer
Salmon Gravlax and Smoked Prawn with Mesclun and 1000 Island Coulis (pictured above)

Cheese with Fleuron and Herb Foam soup, Skirt Steak with Onion Ragout at Lolo Dad's BrasserieSoup
Spinach White Cheddar Cheese with Fleuron and Herb Foam (pictured above, left)

Main Course
Skirt Steak with Onion Ragout (pictured above, right)
Served with Pesto Potato Puree and Vegetable Gratin

Terrine of Tiramisu with Peach Tartlet and Seared Banana dessert at Lolo Dad's BrasserieDessert
Terrine of Tiramisu with Peach Tartlet and Seared Banana (pictured above)

Alternatively, if you're not big on meat, you can opt for Fillet of Halibut and Lobster Tail for your main course instead of the Skirt Steak with Onion Ragout. Since I'm allergic to shellfish, I chose to have the Skirt Steak with Onion Ragout.

I loved just about every single dish in the Dinner Set Menu. Everything was just perfect, from the appetite-whetting salmon and smoked prawns, flavorful spinach soup -- if I were a child I would have asked for seconds!, tender and juicy steak, and delicately delicious desserts.

The vegetable gratin siding particularly stood out for me. It was primarily made up of carrot layers and I'm not very keen on carrots. Lolo Dad's alternated carrot and vegetable layers with cheese to form this little yellow and orange brick that was just unparalleled in terms of taste. The steak was also surprisingly good, in fact I daresay it was better than what I had at 145 F° Prime Steaks and Seafood.

The tiramisu was divine, I felt like I was biting into ice cream and cake at the same time. It was creamy and had just the right amount of sweetness. Peach Tartlet was rather generic and nothing really special. A cup of Lolo Dad's freshly brewed coffee capped off a lovely dinner.

Service was impeccable, but then there were very few diners last Saturday night so there really would've been no excuse for lousy service. There were something like at least two servers manning our table (there were ten of us in the group) who were always ready to assist us with whatever we needed. The interiors are very plain, white, and generally just... plain. I didn't have a problem with it because everything looked immaculately clean.

Just as we were finishing up with coffee and dessert, a rat (take note, rat, and not mouse) darted across to the corner of the room. It moved so fast I wasn't able to capture it on my digicam. This had a couple of waiters scrambling to check the curtains and the plant in the corner in an attempt to locate the rat. I don't know if they ever found it since we were already quite done at the time.

The rat incident didn't really bother me though because having a sister-in-law and a brother who both took up culinary arts and worked in restaurants, I've heard worse. Lots worse.

Lolo Dad's Brasserie
G/F 6750
6750 Ayala Ave., Makati City

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Win a weekend getaway at Splash Oasis Hotel!

Mom Center's survey promoGet a chance to win a weekend getaway for the family at Splash Oasis Hotel simply by answering Mom Center's online survey HERE.

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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Skycable Fun Club's Amazing World of Science!

Skycable Fun Club members were treated to Skycable's Amazing World of Science event last June 27, 2009 at the Rockwell Tent.

Ark Avilon exhibit at Skycable's Amazing World of ScienceSkycable Fun Club's Amazing World of Science featured animal displays and feeding stations set up by Ark Avilon Zoo, various experiments by Mad Science and Gakken Science Experiment Classroom, coloring and testing activities by Gain School Advanced, interactive exhibits by Museo Pambata, and a whole lot more. Refreshments were provided by sponsors like Waffle Time, Mr. Softy, Potato Corner, and Gain Plus Advanced.

Slime-making with Mad Science at Skycable Fun Club's Amazing World of ScienceMagnetic experiment with Gakken and Museo Pambata's Earthquake Table at Skycable's Amazing World of ScienceMy kids had a blast feeding rabbits and guinea pigs at Ark Avilon's area, slime-making with Mad Science, experimenting with magnets, sounds, and air with Gakken (pictured above, left), taking IQ tests at Gain School Advanced's booth, and playing with Museo Pambata's interactive displays (like the Earthquake Table, pictured above right). There was also a mini planetarium and a program where even more amazing experiments were conducted on stage. Games and raffles thrilled the kids throughout.

My little girl Keirra managed to win a lovely prize from National Geographic for answering a trivia question correctly -- a hardbound book entitled "Journeys of a Lifetime: 500 of the World's Greatest Trips", while my little boy Kenshin snagged a consolation prize from Gain School Advanced. Each subscriber also got a loot bag containing sponsor goodies.

Skycable's Amazing World of ScienceAre you a Skycable subscriber? If you are, you can enroll your kids aged 2-11 years old in the Skycable Fun Club for FREE! Just call 631-0000. Not only do Skycable Fun Club members get exclusive invites to events like these, they also get gift packs on their birthday month. Best of all, it's all FREE so long as you are a Skycable subscriber in good standing. :D

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Friday, June 26, 2009

VNC Mid-Year Sale!

VNC Mid-year Sale!So many shoes... so little time :)
VNC celebrates its MID-YEAR Sale!
Satisfy your foot fetish with up-to-the-minute trends at half the price!
Get strapped with fab finds at 70% off!

Visit VNC at Robinsons Galleria, Glorietta III, Robinsons Place Manila, TriNoma, SM Mall of Asia, SM Megamall, Alabang Town Center, Shangri-La Plaza Mall and SM North Edsa Annex.

The sale will last until July 15, 2009.

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Guess what's arriving at Starbucks in 7 days?

Starbucks' new Coffee Jelly concoctionsGuess what's arriving at Starbucks in 7 days? Well technically since I am posting this after midnight it's 6 days and counting.

In less than a week, Starbucks will once again tittilate coffee lovers with their new Coffee Jelly line of beverages. Aside from the current Starbucks Coffee Jelly they're offering now, three new concoctions will be available starting July 2, 2009 -- Caramel Dark Roast Coffee Jelly Frappuccino Blended Coffee, Dark Roast Coffee Jelly Frappuccino (my personal favorite!), and Iced Vanilla Dark Roast Coffee Jelly Caffé Latte.

I'm not a big fan of fraps in general because I find them too sweet, but Starbucks' Dark Roast line is just right. I loved the Dark Roast Coffee Jelly Frappucino. It's not too sweet with rich dark chocolate undertones.

Starbucks is also offering the medium-bodied and rather nutty Tanzania coffee from Africa for a limited time.

Starbucks' new savory and sweet food offeringsOf course, the line-up wouldn't be complete without new food offerings to pair the drinks with. Savory treats include the Spanish Sausage and Egg Wrap, Farmhouse Quiche, Zucchini Carrot Honey Raisin Loaf, and Parmesan Chicken on Turkish Pide Bread. For the sweet side, there's Chocolate Marshmallow Cake and Very Berry Cheesecake. I especially loved the tasty Parmesan Chicken sandwich and Farmhouse Quiche which was loaded with veggies. The Very Berry Cheesecake is exceptionally cheesy and creamy, and is definitely one of the best cheesecakes I've ever had the pleasure of digging in to. While the Chocolate Marshmallow Cake resembles Chocolate Kiss Cafe's Devil Food Cake, that is where the similarity ends. I've always found Devil Food Cake to be overrated because it's on the dry side with a very generic-tasting marshmallow frosting. Chocolate Marshmallow Cake is incredibly rich and moist.

Starbucks Twist TumblersIf you liked Starbucks' Clean and Green Tumblers, you'll love the new Starbucks Twist Tumblers. With two cute and funky designs to choose from, the 8 oz. Twist Tumblers retail for P595 each. You can twist and interchange the layers to get the look you want.

Are you a loyal Starbucks patron? From June 29 to July 1, 2009, all Starbucks branches will be awarding special pre-launch Guess Who? cards to their fifty (50) most loyal patrons. The card will give a free upsize for any of the new beverages from July 2-15, 2009. Starbucks will be giving out a total of 50 cards per branch.

Here's a little Starbucks factoid: Did you know that Starbucks has an ongoing promo where each branch randomly generates a special survey code in your receipt for an online survey? Answer the online survey using the code and get a FREE drink of your choice! At least 30 customers per branch per month (that's an average of one customer a day) will get this survey code in his/her receipt so better check those slips before you discard them! I know because I got the code in my receipt from Starbucks Robinsons Galleria. :D

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Nestlé The Joy of Wellness Fair

Nestle The Joy of Wellness Fair Nestlé Philippines invites everyone to choose wellness at The Joy of Wellness Fair to be held at the SM Megatrade Hall 2 this coming July 4-5, 2009 from 10am to 8pm. Entrance is FREE!

Nestle The Joy of Wellness Fair program schedule Fair activities include cooking demos, fitness activities, free cholesterol check, parenting sessions, and lots more. For details about Nestlé's wellness advocacy and downloadable wellness tools, log on to http://www.choosewellness.com.ph

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Monday, June 22, 2009

Why I've sworn off online voting contests...

Back in January 2009, I joined Nido Fortified's My #1 Video Contest on Multiply hoping to win a year's supply of milk for my kids.

Now anyone who knows me would know that there is probably no one more gung-ho and game than me when it comes to joining contests. My motto has always been "There is nothing to lose by trying,".

The Nido contest would determine the winners via the number of votes they would receive on Nido's Multiply page. The top ten entries with the most number of votes would win a year's supply of Nido Fortified. Meanwhile, the moms and kids in the top ten videos would be featured in a Nido music video. Seems fair enough -- provided each IP would only be allowed to vote once.

Alas, it wasn't long before the contestants discovered that they could stay up all night long and live like zombies just to keep voting for their own entries. Some even resorted to an automated voting program which would do the voting for them while they went about their own business -- as long as they kept their computers on, it would just generate votes and more votes.

I tried to live like a zombie, camped in front of my computer day in and day out. Later on, I even got the chance to use the automated voting program myself but decided not to go through it. Somewhere along the way, I woke up, smelled the coffee, and decided that what I was doing was really really senseless, pointless, and just way too demanding of my time, effort, and resources. The contest ran for three months. You can basically upload whatever you want and win as long as you can come up with a gazillion votes by any means possible. There was no judging whatsoever. In that span of time I could do so many other more productive things than obsessing with how many votes I had, who was on the top ten, and so forth. At the time that my life was taken over by the Nido contest, my work suffered, my family suffered, my writing suffered, and I suffered. It was just not worth it. I realized I could easily buy a year's supply of milk by devoting myself to other more profitable pursuits.

After the Nido contest, many other similar online voting contests popped up. As for me, I've had enough. Unless the voting can be conducted in a fair, rational, and all-grounds-equal manner -- I believe this is possible, I'm not touching any voting contest with a ten foot pole.

Why am I posting about this now? I received a PM on Multiply about Nido and another online voting contest, and I remembered. I want to make it clear I have nothing against Nido or any other entity who's holding an online voting contest, nor am I condemning those who choose to join these contests. It's a free country, and people can choose what they want to do. What I have expressed is simply my personal stand.

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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Skycable FitFest Capoeira Workshop

I scored a couple of invites for Skycable and Gold's Gym's FitFest event sometime last week. Held at Fully Booked Top Shelf on Bonifacio High Street, attendees could participate in three different fitness workshops: Belly Dancing, Capoeira, and Hip-Hop Street Dancing. I chose Capoeira, since I'm an avid video game player and I've played enough Tekken to be impressed with Eddy Gordo and Christie Monteiro's funky fighting moves.

Skycable FitFest host with Sinha Bahia de Capoeira's Mestre TorpedoThe Capoeira workshop was handled by Sinha Bahia de Capoeira, led by Capoeira veteran and Brazilian Master Mestre Torpedo (pictured above, middle). Capoeira is a Brazilian martial art which combines fighting moves, dance, and rhythm. It is performed with music, Mestre Torpedo told us that without music, it's not Capoeira.

Before we began our session, Mestre Torpedo and his group conducted an exhibition so we'd have a better idea of what Capoeira entails. Since my digicam couldn't quite capture the action, I took a video instead:

I was quite intimidated by the moves but we were assured that we would be taught the basics and we would not be expected to execute the acrobatics that we had witnessed. Whew!

For the next hour, we learned basic stances, three kicks, and three escapes. I could feel the strain on my thighs and legs in particular. I really gave it my 100% effort and worked up a good sweat from the routine. It was a good feeling to get my heart rate up and my blood pumping. With my packed schedule it's really difficult to go to the gym on a regular basis. We were told that Capoeira is a good option if you're aiming to lose some weight.

Snacks at the Skycable FitfestAfter the session, we were treated to some snacks and unlimited Nestea Fit apple-flavored iced tea courtesy of Nestlé. There were various hors d'oeuvres like canapes, fresh spring rolls, empanadas, veggie slices, and fruit skewers.

Goodies from Skycable FitfestAll Skycable Fitfest participants got to take home loot bags containing sponsor goodies: slippers and a pocket calendar from Accel, Nestea Fit iced tea packs with a matching tumbler, a loaf of Olsen's whole wheat bread, a pack of Olsen's cookies, and a small box of Nestlé Fitnesse cereal.

Thank you so much Skycable for another fun and enlightening experience!

Capoeira costs P2,400 for 12 sessions. Classes are held at Gold's Gym Ortigas, Gold's Gym Glorietta, Club 650 Sports Center, and AAK Fitness System among other locations. For more information, log on to http://www.capoeira.com.ph

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

145° F Prime Steaks and Seafood

*This establishment is now CLOSED.*

145° Fahrenheit is the perfect temperature for steak -- at least that's the message 145° F Prime Steaks and Seafood Restaurant is trying to convey. I'm no chef so I really don't know.

Two of our friends decided to celebrate their birthdays at 145° F Prime Steaks and Seafood Restaurant, since none of us have eaten there. It has become something of a tradition for our barkada to celebrate somewhere majority of us have not yet tried.

To start us off, we were served some complimentary freshly baked bread with pecan butter. The pecan butter was sweet and creamy. It had these tiny bits of crunchy pecan. It was so good I wanted to get some for take-out -- I can imagine how divine it would be spread on my breakfast toast.

145° F Prime Steaks and SeafoodFor appetizers, we decided to go for US Wagyu Carpaccio (P590, pictured above left) and Baked New Zealand Mussels (P560, pictured above right). Carpaccio is the Venetian counterpart of sashimi. 145° F's US Wagyu Carpaccio was comprised of very thinly sliced raw beef served on top of some olive oil and balsamic vinegar and sprinkled with herbs and pieces of parmesan cheese. The mussels were pretty pig and baked with lots of herbs and cheese. Both appetizers were very flavorful, so much so that I don't think I would've minded if my main dish never came. We also had Onion Rings (P 260) and Calamari Frites (P310), but both were on the bland side and thus nothing really special.

New York Steak at 145 F
145° F Prime Steaks and SeafoodFor the main course, hubby ordered the US Wagyu New York Steak (P2,200 - first photo above), while I settled for Skewered Wagyu (P1,350 - pictured above left). I didn't think I could finish a whole steak so I asked the server for the smallest order of Wagyu that was available. She recommended the Skewered Wagyu, which is kinda like Shish Kebab with the cubed beef and veggie pieces on sticks. For every order of steak, you get a side dish of either mashed potatoes or creamed corn plus your choice of sauce. There are six sauces to choose from -- Steak Sauce, Beef Jus, Mushroom, Green Peppercorn, BBQ, and Red Wine. I had Green Peppercorn sauce with my Skewered Wagyu and I requested for medium well in terms of doneness.

The verdict? Hubby wasn't too happy with his New York Steak. He said he didn't believe it was Wagyu since we've just had a lot of Wagyu imported from Australia when my uncle had a cook-out at his house some time ago. My Skewered Wagyu was okay, unfortunately the best part of it was the crisp and sweet fresh vegetables served on the side. My beef cubes were not very tender, and they were kind of salty. I ate it with and without sauce so I could get a sense of the full flavor of the dish. It was really just okay. I managed to finish one stick and could not eat any more. It was heavy, despite being toted as the smallest order of Wagyu at 250g per serving. I finished my creamed corn side dish though. I loved its milky taste.

Since it was a birthday celebration, 145° F came out with a complimentary Chocolate Mousse (picture above right). The waiter told me that normally the Chocolate Mousse would've been topped with caramel and bananas, but a lighted candle took their place for this occasion. Surprisingly, the Chocolate Mousse was divine. The bottom layer was made of very light white chocolate cream, which was overlapped with a thin layer of chocolate chiffon cake, milk chocolate ganache, and a rich chocolate topping. I would've finished the whole thing if I weren't so worried about my diabetic lineage and my ever-expanding waistline, but as it is, I just settled for a few spoonfuls.

Whatever shortcomings the food had was made up for by the excellent service. The servers are very alert and knowledgeable. You can ask them questions about anything on the menu and they won't falter. They are also quick to recommend if you are at a loss. We also loved the bright, cheerful, yet classy interiors. I was impressed by their open kitchen. You can see everything they're doing, which inspires confidence in the food you're being served. My brother is a culinary student who has worked in the kitchens of popular restaurants and I've heard stories that have made me swear these establishments off.

All in all, 145° F is generally above average. Everything is great except for the steak. Maybe next time I should try their seafood. It is an extremely pricey place though, and I can easily think of other places which can offer better steak for a lower price.

145° Fahrenheit Prime Steaks and Seafood
G/F Il Terrazzo, Tomas Morato, Quezon City

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Free pizza, anyone?

We love pizza. My hubby and I would usually have one delivered during nights when we're just watching TV. Our kids are especially thrilled whenever we do so. Since we order pizza at least twice a month, we decided to avail of Shakey's Pizzanatic Card and Pizza Hut's Palm Card. These cards give you a free pizza every time you have one delivered, so you get two pizzas instead of one. Anyways, we had the Pizzanatic Card for the first half of the year, and the Palm Card for the last half since each card's validity is only for 6 months. So which is the better card? Let's have a look at each one.

Shakey's Pizzanatic CardShakey's Pizzanatic Card
Price: P199
Delivery Hotline: 77777
  • For every order of a large or family size pizza and a 1.5 liter bottle of Coke, you get a free Pepperoni or Hawaiian pizza of the same size and same crust type as the one you ordered.
  • We usually order a large thin crust Manager's Choice pizza and a 1.5L bottle of Coke, pay only P380+ and then get another large thin crust Hawaiian pizza.
Pizza Hut Palm CardPizza Hut Palm Card
Price: P349
Delivery Hotline: 911-1111
  • For every order of any regular or family size pizza, you get a free pizza of the month of the same size.
  • There isn't really an ever-changing pizza of the month, every month the free pizza is a choice between Hawaiian, Veggie Lovers, Beef and Onion, or Bacon and Pepperoni pizza.
  • We usually order a family size Supreme pizza for P385 and then a 1.5 liter bottle of regular Pepsi for P60+. We pay close to P450 every order.
Which is better? Both have their own good points.

Pizza Hut is hands down the FASTEST when it comes to delivery time, faster than Shakey's, Yellow Cab, Brooklyn Pizza, and Greenwich. We have never waited for more than 30 minutes for Pizza Hut, and I can't say the same for all the other pizza delivery services. Pizza Hut pizzas are also very filling, so we usually get to keep the free pizza and eat it the next day.

Shakey's Pizzanatic card and pizzas are cheaper than Pizza Hut's. Shakey's also has their famous mojos, which my kids absolutely love. Shakey's thin crust pizzas are quite light though and we usually finish everything in one night.

Whichever card you decide to take, if you have a pizza delivered at least once a month, you will definitely recover the cost of the Pizzanatic or Palm card in six months time and get several free pizzas in the process. Just about the only disadvantage is not ordering any other pizza for half a year in an effort to maximize your card's benefits.

So which one will it be?

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Bibingcrepe 101 at Halfmoon Asian Café

*This establishment is now CLOSED.*

This feature of mine was originally published on Spot.ph last April 20, 2009.

Kiko Rustia of Halfmoon Asian Cafe and a Bibingcrepe “A Bibingcrepe is actually a lot like the Indonesian martabak, except that it’s really suited for the Filipino taste,” shares Kiko Rustia, co-owner of Halfmoon Asian Café (which used to be known simply as Halfmoon Bibingcrepe). A martabak is a sweet, thick pancake topped with anything from cheese, chocolate, crushed peanuts, condensed milk, and sesame seeds and is a very popular snack in Indonesia. “What we have here is a fusion of the martabak, bibingka, and crepe,” Kiko continues. Hence, the Bibingcrepe is a distinctly Filipino creation resulting from a medley of different culinary cultures.

Kiko and Halfmoon founder Chef Dick Balajadia have been best friends for the last fifteen years and jointly manage Halfmoon Asian Café. Kiko was recently featured as one of the Castaways in GMA Network’s Survivor Philippines. Unknown to many, Kiko is also actually a chef himself, having graduated from Center for Culinary Arts Manila.

Choco-Cheese Bibingcrepe“Filipinos love desserts, but we didn’t want to make our Bibingcrepe too fancy. Its flexibility is what makes it unique since it works well both as a filling snack for merienda and as a dessert for sharing. It can be savory or sweet,” Kiko explains. “We really worked hard to develop and perfect our Bibingcrepe batter using only the finest ingredients, and we don’t use just any ordinary pan to cook it. We have specially forged pans that are custom made according to our specifications.”

At the moment, there are five different Bibingcrepe variants available — Cheese, Chocolate, Choco-Cheese, Corn-Cheese and Choco-Mallows. Servings come in two sizes, Mini (P60-P65) and Regular (P95-P100). For an additional P5, you can have it topped with ice cream.

Kiko claims that the all-time bestseller is the Choco-Cheese Bibingcrepe, and it’s not hard to see, or rather taste, why. The thick yet soft pan cake is served hot, crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside. The tangy cheese and the semi-sweet chocolate fillings complement each other perfectly. You’d be hard-pressed to limit yourself to just one slice. “We really picked a specific kind of chocolate for our Bibingcrepe. We wanted it to be smooth with just a slight bitterness to it that can be likened to dark chocolate so it wouldn’t be too overwhelming,” Kiko elucidates.

Cheese BibingcrispWith the success of the Bibingcrepe, Halfmoon has also started to offer a thin, wafer-like version called the Bibingcrisp. The Bibingcrisp variants include Cheese (P60), Chocolate (P60), and Choco-Marshmallow (P75), with Cheese as the bestseller. The Cheese Bibingcrisp is similar to a cheese quesadilla except that it’s crispy and slightly sweet since it uses the same batter as the Bibingcrepe. Kiko suggests having the Cheese Bibingcrisp with a nice tall glass of cold Green Mango with Basil Iced Tea (P55) for the ultimate Halfmoon experience.

Since Halfmoon has recently evolved from being a Bibingcrepe stand to a full-service café, classic Asian snacks such as Pork Siomai (P80), Char Keuy Teow (P165), Luscious Laksa (P170), and Cabbage Rolls (P80) are available as well.

Halfmoon Asian Café
238 Sct. Bayoran St. cor. Tomas Morato Ext., Quezon City

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Sunday, June 14, 2009

Affordable Italian treats at Amici and Cara Mia Gelateria!

The first time I had Amici pizzas was during my cousin's bridal shower a few years back. We had them delivered to her condo and I remember totally enjoying the crusty and flavorful pizzas which I was told was made by the priests at Don Bosco. They were very reasonably priced to boot.

Lately, it seems that Amici branches are popping up all over the metro, the latest one in Greenhills. Since it was a nice sunny Friday last June 12, we trooped to Amici in Tomas Morato for a leisurely lunch.

Al Quattro Formaggi Pizza at AmiciSince there were nine of us plus we had a lot of kids in tow (my kids plus nephews from hubby's side), we decided to order 2 pizzas, 3 pastas, and a panini. The Al Quattro Formaggi pizza (P290, pictured above) came out first, much to the delight of the kids. I could actually taste the four different cheeses they used, there was even some blue cheese. I also loved that the pizza was thin, crisp, and not greasy.

La Galina Pizza and Spaghetti Red Vongole E Gambretti at AmiciFor our second pizza, we opted for the La Galina (P300, pictured above left), which had chicken bits, roasted peppers, mushrooms, onions, and sundried tomatoes. It was just as well-received by our group as the Al Quattro Formaggi. The kids, who are normally bothered by onions and peppers, wolfed down whole slices without question. The first pasta dish that made it to our table was the Spaghetti Red Vongole E Gambretti (P215, pictured above right). Although I'm allergic to shrimp, I made it a point to have a little taste as my mother-in-law was raving endlessly about this particular dish. The seafood flavor is very distinct, even without eating the shellfish on the side. I'd describe the sauce as something like a mix of seafood broth and tomato sauce.

Penne Al Salmone Affumicato and Spaghetti Alla Carbonara at AmiciOur next two pasta dishes were Penne Al Salmone Affumicato (P215, pictured above left) and Spaghetti Alla Carbonara (P185, pictured above right). For some reason our salmon penne turned into salmon spaghetti upon serving, but we had a lot of hungry people in the group so we just dug in. It was tangy and creamy at the same time, and they didn't scrimp on the salmon in the sauce. Amici's carbonara was hailed by my son as being better than Cibo's and Mickey's Deli's. He's a real carbonara fan so whenever we eat anywhere that serves pasta we always have a serving of carbonara. All the pasta and pizza dishes were wiped out by our group.

Perhaps the least popular of the dishes we ordered was the Ragu Di Maiale Panini (P140), which was a sandwich filled with braised pork in pomodoro sauce. It was so-so, I think I'll take asado siopao any day over it though.

Amici in Tomas Morato (I don't know about the other branches) is a self-service establishment. You have to order and pay at the counter, get a number, and then wait for your food to be served at your table. You get everything yourself from a communal condiments area -- olive oil, parmesan cheese, table napkins, glasses of water, ice... the ambiance is bright, cheery, and bit cafeteria-like. The prices are very, very reasonable. Serving sizes are good enough for sharing. The pizza is 12" in diameter sliced into eight pieces. Pasta dishes can be shared by at least two people. We spent a total of 1.2k for a delicious and filling Italian lunch that was able to satisfy five adults and four kids.

This particular branch also houses Cara Mia Gelateria, Amici's specialty dessert place. Needless to say, after our meal we all trooped to the ice cream counter and ordered gelato for dessert.

A variety of gelato flavors at CaramiaA scoop of Cara Mia gelato costs anywhere from P45 to P55 depending on the flavor. Add P10 and you can have it in a sugar cone or waffle cone. I had a scoop of Sans Rival gelato. It was good, I felt as if I was actually eating a slice of Sans Rival except that it was very cold and creamy. It got to be a tad too sweet towards the end since their scoop size is quite generous. They weigh it before they hand it to you so their servings are consistent. My only gripe with regards to Cara Mia gelato is that it melts easily. My little girl was just halfway through her Vanilla gelato when it was on the verge of turning into a puddle.

Aside from gelato, Cara Mia also serves cakes and pastries.

G/F Bellagio Square, Tomas Morato,
Quezon City
818-4444 (delivery hotline)

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Saturday, June 13, 2009

Working Mom Lifeworks Series: Starting a Family

Working Mom Magazine would like to invite moms and even brides-to-be's to the latest seminar in their Lifeworks Series entitled "Starting a Family".

This will take place at Fully Booked Top Shelf at Bonifacio High Street on June 28, 2009 from 1:00 - 5:30pm. Pre-registration is a must!

For pre-registration, please send your name, age, address, mobile number, and occupation with the subject "Lifeworks 2" to workingmompromos@gmail.com. You can also call 415-2272 loc. 3162 or text 0917-5132291 and look for Bel Roldan.

Please present a June 2009 issue of Working Mom upon entrance. Magazines will also be available at the venue.

If this is anything like the previous Lifeworks Series events I've attended, you can expect some snacks, sponsor booths, some games and prizes, plus a loot bag.

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Friday, June 12, 2009

Experience BIG at Bigby's Café and Restaurant

This feature of mine originally appeared in Spot.ph last March 29, 2009.

Bigby's Cafe and RestaurantAt first glance, one can easily mistake Bigby’s Café and Restaurant for one of those big international restaurant chains with its quirky travel-inspired theme and creatively designed menu. The fact is, Bigby’s is proudly 100% Filipino-owned and operated. Food-tripping friends Henrik Yu, Joanna Yu, and Catherine Genabe opened the first Bigby’s Café and Restaurant in Cagayan de Oro back in 1998. One decade and eight provincial branches later, they decided to make the jump to Metro Manila and finally landed in the SM Megamall Atrium — making it Bigby’s ninth branch.

“The name Bigby’s was actually derived from the word big, which in turn refers to our serving sizes, which are big,” explains Sonjie Ang, Bigby’s General Operations Manager. “Our barkada, including the owners Henrik, Joanna, and Catherine, would usually go out to eat and we would notice that one order is usually not enough. Here at Bigby’s, we make sure that our portions satisfy our customers.”

Barely three months old in Metro Manila and still fresh out of its home in Cagayan De Oro, Bigby’s Café and Restaurant has already established quite a following among Manila’s dining crowd and the huge food portions aren’t the only reason why.

When to Go: Bigby’s opens at 10 a.m., as soon as SM Megamall’s doors open. The place is usually packed during lunch and dinner time, so it’s best to reserve before you visit to avoid having to queue up for a long time outside while waiting to be seated.

Ticky Wacky Chicken Salad and Pescado Al Fresco at Bigby's Cafe and Restaurant
Deep Sea Pasta at Bigby's Cafe and RestaurantWhat to Eat: Bigby’s menu can satisfy just about every kind of appetite, whether you’re a meat lover, a health-conscious eater or a seafood aficionado. For starters, Sonjie recommends the Ticky Wacky Chicken Salad (P285, pictured above left), a delightful mix of fresh garden greens, mangoes, grapes, walnuts, and cheese tossed in Chantilly dressing and then topped with a scoop of creamy chicken salad. For the main course, Sonjie shares that Rack-A-Bye-Baby (P365) is the unanimous bestseller among all Bigby’s branches nationwide. You get a full half kilo of tender pork ribs served with a generous portion of rice, buttered string beans and corn, and Bigby’s very own barbecue sauce. Not a meat lover? Then go for the Pescado Al Fresco (P265, pictured above right), pan-seared cream dory fillet topped with pesto in a pool of onions and served with rice on the side. For a uniquely Filipino pasta experience, the Deep Sea Pasta (P255, pictured above) is a must-try. Spaghetti noodles with irresistibly rich crabfat (aligue) sauce and topped with garlic shrimps, which are served piping hot.

Strawberry Shortcake at Bigby's Cafe and Restaurant
Midnight Dream Cake at Bigby's Cafe and RestaurantBigby’s also offers a wide assortment of fresh fruit shakes to wash it all down. At an average of P89 per serving, you can have anything from an invigorating Strawberry Mango Shake to an Apple Pie Shake. Of course, what’s a hearty meal without a delicious dessert to complete the experience? Sonjie suggests capping off your meal with a slice of the Midnight Dream Cake (P99), moist and rich chocolate cake topped with mocha and toffee sauce. If you prefer fruits on your dessert plate, you can go for the Strawberry Shortcake (P159), layers of fresh strawberries and whipped cream sandwiched between slices of rich butter pound cake and topped with two scoops of vanilla ice cream.

Bigby's Cafe and RestaurantThe Scene: Bigby’s has a fiercely loyal weekday lunch crowd comprised of working folks in the Ortigas area. During weekends, patrons consist mostly of malling families. Casual and relaxed, Bigby’s is a place where you just take in all the good food and bask in the warmth of the smiles of the accommodating staff.

Insider Tips: Put your appetite to the test by taking the Bigby’s Titanic Treat Challenge. Order the Titanic Treat (P999), a veritable mountain of a dessert made up of thirty ice cream scoops, brownies, fruits, and a load of other ingredients. If you can finish it with a friend in five minutes, it’s free! You can also try Bigby's online game at bigbyscafe.net and score a gift certificate for a free slice of Midnight Dream Cake!

Bigby’s Café and Restaurant
3/F The Atrium, SM Megamall
EDSA cor. Julia Vargas Ave., Mandaluyong City

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Everything P85 at Saizen Robinsons Galleria!

All items P85 at SaizenI exaggerate not when I say that whenever I go to Japan, I make it my mission to find two shops in whichever city I visit:
  1. Daiso 100-yen store
  2. Don Quijote Discount Superstore
For the purposes of this post, I will talk about shop #1, which is Daiso 100-yen store. Daiso 100-yen store is exactly what its name connotes -- every item being sold costs only 100 yen, which is equivalent to about P50 with the present forex rate. I could get everything from Hello Kitty items to toys, origami kits, food, drinks, school and office supplies, and a whole lot more for only P50 per item. Sometimes they'd even have 2 for 100 yen (P50) deals.

The good news is, Daiso 100-yen store has finally made it to Philippine shores. Daiso opened its first ever Philippine branch in Robinsons Galleria last April, but it is called Saizen here in our country and not Daiso. It's the Saizen P85 Store.

Puzzle toys and hair ornaments at Saizen Robinsons GalleriaI was surprised to find a lot of the same items in stock at Saizen in Robinsons Galleria as the Daiso 100-yen shop I visited in Osaka last April. There really was so much interesting stuff that I had a hard time trying to decide which ten items would be my first batch of fab finds. Being a mom, I naturally found myself gravitating towards things I could get for my kids!

Kids experiment kit at Saizen Robinsons Galleria
Origami sets at Saizen Robinsons GalleriaThere were so many fun things I could get my kids -- IQ puzzles, science kits, handicraft projects, magic tricks, origami, traditional Japanese toys... it was hard picking out what to take home to them as pasalubong.

Stainless steel smell remover and insect repellent at Saizen Robinsons GalleriaJust like in Daiso in Japan, Saizen had racks and racks of interesting, unique, and functional items. The two items pictured above, a stainless steel smell remover and an insect repellent for rice (bigas) caught my eye. If say, your hands smell like garlic, all you have to do is rub the steel orb on your hands under running water and the smell will be gone. For the insect repellent, all you have to do is stick it on the cover of your rice dispenser and pests won't infest your rice supply.

Saizen is such an all-purpose store that you can get everything from kitchen knives to butterfly nets to scrapbooking items to pet accessories. Did I mention they also have beauty and fashion items? If I were to enumerate everything that's available, I'd probably never finish.

What I missed at Saizen were the Japanese food and beverage items I'd usually pick up at Daiso. I asked Saizen General Manager Mr. Bobby Go and Overseas Store Chief Leader Mr. Ryuta Kamei if Saizen will also have these in stock. They said that they are still working on the necessary permits from BFAD and other government agencies. I also asked Kamei-san if they'll eventually offer character items in the future, since Daiso usually has Sanrio, Disney, and Pokemon stuff for sale. Sadly this is a rather vague possibility due to licensing issues. But hey, at least I can look forward to my favorite Japanese food items being available in the future!

My ten fab finds at Saizen Robinsons Galleria!At last I settled for my ten fab finds on my first visit to Saizen:
  1. Kitchen knife with holes (Thanks to Sire for helping me with this, I'm so clueless when it comes to the kitchen but our cook is really raving about this knife!)
  2. Origami set
  3. Origami plastic keeper case
  4. Cosmetic Cotton 150 pcs. (My hubby has been addicted to this ever since he bought some in Japan!)
  5. Erasers (Japanese erasers are the best... just in time for school opening too!)
  6. Antibacterial flushable toilet wipes (Perfect when you have to use the public toilet and it's less than immaculate!)
  7. Kiddie ponytail holders
  8. Formal ponytail holder
  9. Hair gum accessory (I have yet to figure out how to use these!)
  10. Food container with ice pack (Now I can bring fruits and salads and keep them fresh!)
Special thanks to Yehey.com and the Saizen Management for a lovely afternoon of shopping and for entertaining all my kulit questions. I can't wait to go back to Saizen with my hubby and kids! :D

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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Free Krispy Kreme Glazed Chocolate Cake!

Free Krispy Kreme Glazed Chocolate Cake!Play a series of online games at http://www.chocolatekarnival.com and get a free Krispy Kreme Glazed Chocolate Cake! The coupon will be emailed to you as soon as you finish playing the games.

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Monday, June 8, 2009

My Top 10 Emerging Influential Blogs for 2009

So many blogs, so little... space and time?

Anyways, these are the emerging blogs based on the cut-off date that are on my list:
  1. From the Bottom of my Hypothalamus - http://bbgandanghari.blogspot.com
  2. Boy Kuripot - http://boy-kuripot.blogspot.com
  3. The Beauty Coach - http://thebeautycoach.wordpress.com
  4. Let's Go Sago - http://www.letsgosago.net
  5. Style and Relax - http://styleandrelax.blogspot.com
  6. Filipino Mom Blog - http://filipinomomblog.com
  7. The Thirsty Blogger - http://www.thirstyblogger.com
  8. The Accidental Teacher - http://www.theaccidentalteacher.com
  9. Adaphobic - http://www.adaphobic.com
  10. Animetric's World - http://animetric.blogspot.com - Yes it is blatant self-promotion on my part but if I don't believe in me, who's going to, right? It's not against the rules anyway... :p
Do you like this blog? If the answer is yes, then please cast a vote for Animetric's World at http://www.influentialblogger.net/2009/05/join-top-10-emerging-influential-blogs.html

What's more, by voting for your Top 10 Emerging Influential Blogs for 2009, you get a chance to be one of ten (10) winners of US$100 in the raffle draw.

This is made possible by Absolute Traders, My Brute Cheats, Business Summaries, Fitness Advantage Club, Events and Corporate Video, Events@Work, Dominguez Marketing Communications, Red Mobile and Blog4Reviews.com.

More prizes? Help Earthlingorgeous discover emerging influential blogs and win prizes like shirts and GCs by clicking HERE.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The fun and fashionable world of VNC!

VNC shoes and bagsThe first time I came across VNC shoes and bags was at a Good Housekeeping magazine photo shoot a few years back. I wasn't into freelance writing back then, I was tapped by GH to be the model for their mommy fashion makeover. Stylist Pia Rojas brought several VNC bags and shoes that we would use for the shoot. The first thing I noticed as I slipped into a pair of pumps was how comfy they felt. I normally don't wear high heels but the VNC pumps were pretty easy to get into.

VNC shoes and bagsI didn't really know too much about the brand. I suspected it was imported judging from the style, craftsmanship, and packaging. After that shoot, I would often notice VNC shoes and bags in other magazine spreads. I must admit I was very excited when I was asked if I wanted to join the VNC Bloggers Party. It was my chance to finally get to know the brand behind the magazine pages.

Stephanie Quizon, Brand Manager of VNC - PhilippinesMs. Stephanie Quizon, VNC's Brand Manager, showed us a short video presentation and shared with us a brief history of the brand. VNC actually hails from Malaysia, where it is known as Vincci. At present, there are over 100 Vincci and VNC stores all over Asia.

VNC started in the Philippines back in 2003 with its pioneer branch in Robinsons Galleria. Since VNC shoes and bags are so stylish, durable, and affordable, it inevitably became a big hit amongst Filipino women. VNC will soon be opening its 9th branch at Eastwood Mall.

VNC shoe prices range from P730 to P2,500, while VNC bags cost anywhere from P1,790 to P3,500. Shoes are available in sizes 4-11. It's a good mid-range brand that you can use for work, for parties, or simply for just hanging out. VNC styles are inspired by the latest Paris runway trends. Looking at VNC's Spring Summer 2009 Collection that was showcased, traces of Coco Chanel and Pucci are quite evident. I love the extensive selection of fun and colorful footwear. They have everything from flats to stillettos, sandals to pumps. I have my eye on these really cute platform sandals pictured below.

VNC Spring Summer 2009 platform sandalsVNC comes out with over forty different styles in at least three different colors every month, so there's surely something for everyone.

For more information about VNC's available styles and store locations, log on to http://vncphil.multiply.com/

Do you love VNC? Get P200 off your purchase by clicking on the coupon below to get the full-sized image. Save and print.

VNC Discount Coupon
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